A Mentor’s Experience

 

 

Well over a year ago I had expressed an interest in the mentoring program at Girls’ Inc., but this was prior to Megan Oberymeyer’s wonderful coordination of the group. So I must admit I was a little hesitant to get involved when Meghan contacted me last fall–until I had a very warm and open conversation with her. I attended an orientation of sorts with her last October and she did her magic and matched me with a wonderful 14-year-old girl, Amina Abdullahi (it only took me a few weeks to pronounce this correctly), who came to the United States with her family from Kenya when she was 7 years old.

She is in the 8th grade at Bryan Middle School and has 6 brothers and sisters. She loves art and tacos. This is basically the information I had before meeting her in late November. Meghan set a meeting up with Amina, her, and myself. I had never been to the South annex of Girls’ Inc. before so I was actually a bit nervous about the whole thing but Amina is such a warm and friendly young lady that it went “swimmingly”.

The first weekend in December the local “Hot Shops” artist coop has an open house; so remembering Amina likes art, I asked her to go with a friend and me. It was interesting to see what some of the current local trends are with some of the artists and I think Amina enjoyed it.

In an effort to keep communication going, I would call her a couple of times a week to see how she was doing. She talked a lot about her art classes in school. They were studying Georgia O’Keefe and she was very interested in the various aspects involved in the flowers. I was impressed with her art teacher’s assignment for the students to draw all the different parts of the flowers, before drawing the entire thing. Amina enjoyed this too.

After the holiday, Amina and I went down to Lauritzen Gardens to see the poinsettia display, indoor train display, and have lunch. I took her a book on Georgia O’Keefe that had been my mom’s. At the same time, she presented me with one of her beautiful drawings of a large flower—much like the O’Keefe style. I was so terribly touched. So much so, that I told her I am working on having it framed. I learned something I should have known all along, and that is that Amina is Muslim and does not eat pork (Duh!). Somehow this fact slipped my mind so I was newly informed when she turned down a ham sandwich. (My ignorance at some of the cultural differences amazes me.)

After seeing the movie, “Les Miserables,” I thought it would be a great movie to take Amina to so we had coffee/cupcakes at Jones St. and went to the movie at Aksarben. Halfway through the movie, I was worried that a 14 year old might be a little bored with it, but at the end she said she loved it. A few weeks later, Amina, her sister, and I went to the opening weekend at Film Streams of “Chasing Ice,” a documentary about global warming and the frightening meltdown of the glaciers. Both of us were blown away by the photography, and I was interested in exposing her to the global warming issues. I was pleased to learn they have been talking about it in their science classes.

We both enjoyed going to the Mentor/Mentee dinner at Olive Garden, compliments of Girls’ Inc. I picked Amina up early and brought her to my house (not far from Olive Garden) to hang out a little bit and yak. I had also gotten an artist’s toolbox and filled it with some odds and ends that an artist friend of mine had suggested because Amina had talked about doing some drawing at Girls’ Inc. and I would like to encourage her to continue to embrace her talent.

She was so thrilled. Also, I wanted her to have the chance to meet my two dogs, which are such an important part of our family but boy, did I learn another cultural difference! Amina can’t touch dogs because they view them a lot like pigs—it is not totally clear to me, but I respected this and kept the dogs outside.

All in all, I have enjoyed getting to know Amina better. I have two children entering adulthood so at 58 years of age, I was not sure what I could really offer but I have quickly learned how much we both can teach one another.

Amina is a very outgoing, talkative, at ease young lady. I have so little knowledge or understanding of her culture but I try and be an encouraging ear and support. We talk a lot about her family, her interests, which are so different than mine—not in a bad way, just different. (I had no idea there were entire Bollywood and Nollywood movies and actors.)

Amina has begun calling me regularly to share things from school (she made honor roll!, and is participating in an art show competition at school). She even called me after a weekend I was out of town just to say she had missed me, which about blew me away. I look forward to the new experiences ahead.

 

Outward Bound Urban Expedition

 


DAY 1

On May 27, 2012 I left Girls Inc. not really knowing what I was getting into.  I knew it was an expedition which was 2 days.  I also knew we were staying at a church.  That’s all I really knew.  But as I continued, I learned and saw some pretty cool things.  – Deja

 

While I was on the Expedition we visited places I would never have imagined or stepped foot in.  Like for instance, Kent Bellows Studio. – Ladayshianae

That day we first went to Kent Bellows Art Gallery and painted. We met Anne who is an arts administrator. – Deja

We each got weird shaped pieces and we got to paint whatever we wanted.  Once we were finished, we pieced it together and it made the shape of a heart. After we cleaned up we had lunch at Leavenworth Park.  Unfortunately, we missed our bus, so we had to catch another bus.  We got dropped off in Midtown Crossing and walked to a store called Inclosed.  Inclosed is a store that is in the wedding invitation business.  We met Leslie, Candace, and Meagan.  Leslie is the owner of Inclosed.  Candace is the wedding event planner.  And Meagan owns her own bouquet shop called PrincessLazortron.  She fixes bouquets for brides and bridesmaids.  Next we got to create a party invitation on a posterboard using magazines. – Elijahiana

We learned what it takes to get to the top.  And when we get to the top, we learned not to back down. – Ladayshianae

Then we took a short distance walk to Film Streams.  Film Streams is a non-profit organization that shows special movies like classics and documentaries.  We met Rachel Jacobson who is the director/founder of Film Streams.  Film Streams only has 2 theaters.  We got the chance to examine the 2 theatres and the projection rooms.  – Elijahiana

We learned about how Film Streams started and what they play there. – Maggie

Film Streams is an awesome place. – Ladayshianae

We got to go to Red Mango.  Red Mango sells frozen yogurt and you could add any topping you want.  Once done with the treat, we took the bus back to Midtown Crossing and walked to the Farmer’s Market.  Our challenge was we had to buy organic produce and we had to try to find one thing we never tried before, by using only $20. – Elijahiana

We were given $20 and had to decide as a group how to spend it wisely on organic food and use those foods to create our dinner.  We had rice and beans provided so we had to make something to go with it.  It was fun and new for me because I have never been to one of these before. Our dinner was garlic rice and beans with a zesty salsa and fruit salad which were all things from the market.  – Deja

We all collected fruits and vegetables, and we decided to try kohlrabi.  Kohnlrabi is like a green potato-like thing. – Elijahiana

The most fun was picking out the food that no one had tried which was kohlrabi.  We fried some, then boiled some in water, spices, and honey.  It was good both ways.  When we were buying the food everyone wanted to be in charge so for me that was the hardest. – Ladayshianae

We had to have a few people navigate the bus times and where to go by bus numbers while others went to go cook.  Once dinner was ready, we all ate. – Elijahiana

DAY 2

We went to the City Hall. Once we walked off the bus, we were assigned a challenge.  We had a scavanger hunt.  We met the Mayor and got a baseball card with his autograph.  Then we met other employees who told us about their challenges. – Elijahiana

We talked to Buster Brown, the Mayor, and Diane Battiano.  They told us about how to be succesful in their positions. – Maggie

We learned about the government system and about things like deeds and city planning.  We explored City Hall. We also learned about a program called ReEnergize. – Deja

We met Eric, who showed us than an LED light buld saves more money than a regular light bulb and lasts longer. – Elijahiana

Next, we went to see the Trugs on Leavenworth. – Maggie

We went to Leavenworth and 27th and talked to businesses and people about the Trugs, a bench-like thing they put there to promote the Leavenworth neighborhood and celebrate their community.  – Deja

We talked to another Anne, who was a part of Emerging Terrain.  She explained to us how the Trugs made communities look better.  We had to ask other businesses about what they thought of the Trugs.  Some people said it was good for the community.  Others said it was ruining business and traffic can’t see them. – Elijahiana

DAY 3

We made shirts and posters telling what we did.  When we were done, we went to the downtown slides and Old Market to survey people.  We asked people what they would change about Omaha.  Some said parking, more police officers, less violence.  Other people said there is really nothing to change….We headed back to the bus stop and went to [Omaha Home for Boys].  We had pizza for lunch and set up everything for graduation.  Once graduation started, we presented and told people about what we did.  A special presentation was put on — we each told about where we went.  We nearly made the goal for points and we got pins. We all enjoyed the camp! – Elijahiana

I felt that the most challenging thing was to carry those packs or book bags which were heavy.  But as far as that, I really enjoyed myself and would love to come back. – Deja

During the Expedition, I learned very important things.  I had to learn not to care what other people think because as we were walking through Omaha, we were required to haul around these big hiking bags.  people asked us [about them] but we just told them they were for our Urban Expedition. ..One value I got from this trip was to not be so independent.  Like I learned that it’s OK to sometimes ask for help.  And I had to realize that I was with a group and couldn’t do my own thing….Through the whole Expedition, I gained a lot.  Now that I went, I have new tools to help me through my journey.  So I thank everyone who helped put this together for letting me be able to be a part of this.  Thank you. – Ladayshianae

 

   TRUGS

 

  KOHLRABI

Bullying

The girls watched this video about Johan Mowry being bullied: http://goo.gl/F2lvI.  Then they wrote advice and letters to Jonah.

Hey Jonah-
I can understand how you feel.  I get bullied, too.  I know someone who cut.  You shouldn’t have to go that route.  You could really hurt yourself.  It’s OK.  You can make it through.  You should try writing poems.  That’s what I do.  It helps me empty out my feelings.  It’s like I am a new person.  I many not know you Jonah but I have a feeling you can find something else other than cutting.  You put your life on the line when you cut.  Do me a favor and try not to cut again. – Ashley

Dear Jonah,
Don’t even bother with those people.  They are haters and what you are is a very special person.  You are yourself.  They probably feel bad about themselves.  They haven’t seen the inside of the book, they just looked ta the cover.  You are wonderfully made in your own way. – Salera

Dear Jonah.
As your friend, please don’t listen to mean people.  You should not let them get to you.  Tell a teacher or talk to a friend.  You are stronger than that so JUST BE YOURSELF. 

Dear Jonah,
It is OK.  Believe it or not you are not the only one that gets bullied.  It’s not fair for the victim of the problem.  They probably bully you and other people to make them feel better about themselves.

Dear Jonah,
Sometimes I get bullied about my hair, my skin, my clothes, but then I met some friends and they stood up for me.  I stood up for them.  And yes!  I did kinda bully that’s only because they hurt me so what I say is it’s “Back fire time!” but my friends would say “NO!  It’s not worth it.”  I took their advice and whne I stopped, they stopped.

If I were Jonah’s friend I would always encourage him to never give up no matter how many things that go on in his life.  He should never give up on life.  I would help him through his problems.  I would start a club for people just like Jonah and other people.  I would tell him they’re jealous and the only reason they do that is because something’s wrong with them.  I would tell him:  the song called “You are beautiful.” – Ziann

I would say just ignore them and tell an adult. – Jeriona

It will be OK.  You are who you are.  Don’t care what other people say.  You are fine the way you are.  You can just ignore them and come play with me.

Dear Jonah,
I know you’ve been put down and bullied a lot, but don’t listen.  Just a few minutes ago I got called ugly.  I know I’m beautiful and I believe that.  They’re just jealous and hatin’.  One day those bullies will be punished.  Just think that.  Wish you wonderful things. – Anneliese

Dear Jonah,
Just live your life and there are people who care about you.  What you think of you is what matters. – Teondra

What I would say to Jonah if I were his friend – i would say I’m your friend.  Ignore people.  be strong.  You’re a good person.  Don’t let people get to you. – Jennile

Just remember we’ll all be here for you. – Arian

Don’t worry about what they say.  It’s not true.  I will always be your friend.  You did not do anything wrong to them.  They are just jealous of your greatness.  Just don’t worry.  They just don’t know how hurt you feel. – Tyana

If I was your friend I would have your back and be by your side no matter what.  Brush it off. – Alaunys

Dear Jonah,
I know what you’re going through.  I get bullied every day.  Sometimes the best you can do is ignore it.  If people call you stupid try saying, “If I’m so dumb let me see your report card.”  People will freeze if you say that. If a girl picks on you say, “Stop flirting.” If it’s a boy say, “Stop hatin’.”…I know you can do it.  Go Jonah! – Janeshja

I’ll be here with you all the way.  You won’t hurt or have to cry any more.  I know there are very violent people out there.  Don’t let people get to you.  Either they like you or they are jealous of you.  I know you may want to hurt yourself…I wish you all I have. – Amari

 

 

 

 

Ms. Stephanie & Her Mentee, Amya

 

 

My mentee is Amya, a very sweet 10-year-old girl. I would have to say what makes our relationship so easy is the fact that Amya attends Girls Inc. so we are able to see each other daily.  Also, it helps that Amya and I live 10 minutes apart from one another, which allows us to get together more often.  Another thing that enables us to have a close relationship is that Amya has a cell phone so we communicate daily and set up plans with one another via text or with a phone call. Amya has a younger sister, Asia which can be a tricky situation but whenever her sister has accompanied us it has always been Amya’s choice.  I make it a point to spend time with Amya as much as I can and when the time and situation allows her little sister Asia comes with us.
 
Amya and I have gone to the movies.  We went to Transformers 3, which was her choice
J.  We’ve gone  to a relative’s birthday party; we’ve gone shopping at the Westroads or Oak View Mall.  We’ve played Bocci Ball; gone to church together; gone to my mom’s house to hang out; listened to music; and had a water gun fight. We’ve gone out to eat at Red Robins, Burger King, Jimmy Johns, etc… One of the places we like to go is Sonics because we can sit in the car and just chat. 

 
One thing I like about Amya is that even though at times she is an old soul she can still be a kid and play with younger children and let herself have fun.  She is an awesome big sister – always looking out for her little sister Asia.  We don’t have to be doing anything just hanging out and that is just fine with her.  Amya just enjoys spending time with me even if that means sitting outside together talking, or watching her shows on Disney Channel like So Random, Good Luck Charlie, My Babysitter’s a Vampire or Shake it Up!   

Amya is a such a sweet, thoughtful, loving, kind, funny, caring, young lady and I am blessed to have her as my mentee.
 
I am so glad that I became a Pathfinders Mentor – it has added such wonderful experiences and memories to my life.  – Stephanie Lewis
                                                                                                                                                                            Girls Inc. staff member and Pathfinders Mentor



 

 

 

Congratulations National Scholars!

Girls Inc. members Treasure Pascal, Makay Weliyo, and D’Anshanique Gregory are each recipients of a $2,500 Lucile Miller Wright Scholarship from Girls Inc. national.

The Scholars Program was created in 1992 when Lucile Miller Wright, a long-time supporter of Girls Incorporated, made a bequest from her estate to fund scholarships expressly for young women members.

Since 1993, Girls Inc. national has awarded over $2.58 million in scholarships to over 400 high school women. Multiple scholarships ($2,500 and $15,000) are awarded each year and may be applied to tuition and expenses at any accredited 2- or 4-year college or university.

The purpose of the Scholars Program is to make post-secondary education more accessible by offsetting the financial costs. The goal is to inspire members to succeed in school and to consider a broad range of career possibilities

 

National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Ebony and Ellionsai, Girls Inc. of Omaha basketball players, think it’s great to be girl athletes and have athletic role models. As athletes, they’ll tell you that good grades, paying attention in school, and staying away from negative behavior is as important as practice. Ellionsai says, “It’s important to know that when I graduate from high school, I have opportunities for sports scholarships too.”

“I’m really excited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX and looking forward to making the next 40 years even better!” says Girls Inc. of Omaha Program Director Emily Mwaja.

Making a Gumball Machine

Using a sheet of cardstock, a takeout box, popsicle sticks, 2 skewers, 3 washers, Dixie cups, and a small glass bowl, the girls made their very own gumball machines in Techbridge. This activity was listed as a “favorite” of many of the girls.  They loved using the tools – rulers, scissors, tape, X-acto knives, glue guns, and snips to put all of the pieces together and create a machine that actually works.

Check out our Girls Inc. of Omaha facebook page to see an album of photos from this activity.

Parent Testamonial for GIRLStart literacy

Give Girls Inc. GIRLStart program a huge kudos. I went to Taylor’s parent teacher conference and came out in tears. Taylor’s report card was outstanding. I want to especially point out the Student Criterion reading assessments scores from last semester she advanced in all areas with a proficient in vowel clusters. Again thank you Ms. Kim, Ms. Mara, Ms. Tess as well as the Girls Inc. staff.

– Precious McKesson

My Ideal Teacher

The girls write about their ideal teachers.

“I want my ideal teacher to be nice and do more math and [sic] sicince and [sic] sousho stades and more class and more play time.  And she can give us…” – here the Girls Inc. member runs out of space.  Turn the paper over to read what the ideal teacher gives her students: “[sic] mony.

Page 1 (above) and turned over for page 2 (below).

Girls Design Rube Goldberg Fish Feeders in Tech Bridge

From Wikipedia:  A Rube Goldberg machine, device, or apparatus is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883-1970).

The girls designed elaborate, comical machines using pulleys, levers, dropping marbles, planes, inclines, fulcrums – you name it and they used it!